Image of Photograph of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

The future of Hong Kong

The China Centre seminar on Tuesday 25 May 2021 took the form of introductory presentations and a round table discussion on the future of Hong Kong.  The panellists were Professor Ian Grenville Cross SC, Isabel Hilton OBE, Ronny Tong SC and Professor David Zweig.

Hong Kong has become a focal point for tensions between the West and China, which some people have labelled a New Cold War. Resolution of the tensions is necessary if the global community is to cooperate in order to overcome common existential challenges for the human species. None is of greater importance than climate change. Cooperation requires mutual understanding, which necessitates that parties in dispute with each other view issues from the other party's standpoint.

The seminar on the future of Hong Kong brought together four experts each with a different perspective. Professor David Zweig viewed the issue from the perspective of a non-Chinese who has spent a large part of his academic life as a social scientist teaching and researching in one of Hong Kong's top universities. Professor Grenville Cross examined the issue from the perspective of a non-Chinese legal practitioner, who was Director of Public Prosecutions in Hong Kong from 1997-2009, a key period in the history of the territory. Isabel Hilton examined the issue from the perspective of one of the world's most distinguished journalists writing and broadcasting on China, and as the founder of the website 'China Dialogue'. Ronny Tong examined the issue from the perspective of someone born and bred in Hong Kong, who was Chair of the Hong Kong Bar Association, a member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council (2004-15), and serves as non-official member of Hong Kong's Executive Council.

Each of the participants considered the long-run prospects for Hong Kong after 2047, with contrasting assessments of the possibilities. The National Security Law was the issue to which the panellists devoted most attention, with widely divergent opinions. Other issues addressed by the panellists included: the policy of 'One country, two systems'; the identity of different groups of people living in Hong Kong; attitudes towards the pursuit of independence; violence in the pursuit of political goals; the rule of law; the role of the Basic Law; the role of British judges within the Hong Kong judicial system; and the consequences of climate change for Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta.

After the panellists had made their presentations there followed a round table discussion. Isabel Hilton's closing comment crystallised the positive spirit of the seminar: 'We must learn to talk to each other.' 

I Grenville Cross SC is a British barrister who served as Director of Public Prosecutions of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from 1997 to 2009, and as Deputy DPP of the Crown Colony of Hong Kong from 1990 to 1997. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1990, becoming Senior Counsel in 1997. He is Honorary Professor of Law, University of Hong Kong, and Visiting Professor of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is Sentencing Editor of Hong Kong Cases and of Archbold Hong Kong, and Co-author of Sentencing in Hong Kong. In 2010, he was awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star, for services to the legal system in Hong Kong. 

Isabel Hilton MA D.Litt FRSA OBE is a London based writer and broadcaster, and founder and senior advisor to the China Dialogue Trust.  CDT publishes, an innovative, fully bilingual Chinese English website devoted to building a shared approach on climate change and environmental issues with China. Based in London, chinadialogue launched in 2006 and is now recognised as a unique, independent source of information on environmental and climate issues, widely read in China and in more than 200 countries around the world. It now has offices in Beijing, Delhi and Sao Paolo and has generated four further, related projects:;; and

Ronny Tong KA-WAH QC SC JP was born in Hong Kong and received his education in both Hong Kong and England. He holds an LL.B. with first class honours from the University of Hong Kong and a B.C.L. with honours from the University of Oxford. He came first and was awarded first class honours in England’s Bar Examination and was called to the English Bar and the Hong Kong Bar in 1974 and 1975 respectively. Since then, he has been in active practice as a barrister in Hong Kong specializing in commercial, shipping, company and other Chancery matters. He was appointed as a Queen’s Counsel in 1990 (now Senior Counsel). He served as the Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association from 1999 to 2001 and was elected as a member of the Legislative Council in 2004 from the New Territories East Constituency. His three major areas of concern were Constitutional Development, Fair Competition and the Alleviation of Poverty.  He was re-elected to serve a third term in 2012 from the same constituency and was an active member of the Legislative Council.  He resigned as a legislator in September 2015 but he continues to serve Hong Kong as Convener of his think tank, Path of Democracy, which was set up in June 2015. Mr Tong was appointed a Justice of the Peace in July 2018.

David Zweig (Ph.D., The University of Michigan, 1983) is Professor Emeritus, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is also Director of Transnational China Consulting Limited (HK). He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard in 1984-85. Dr Zweig studied in Beijing in 1974-1976. His did field work on rural reform in China in 1980-1981 and 1986, on China’s “opening to the outside world” in 1991-92 and 1997, and since 1991, he has done surveys and interviews on China’s reverse migration and the Chinese Diaspora. He has authored or edited ten books, including Internationalizing China: domestic interests and global linkages, and Sino-U.S. Energy Triangles: Resource Diplomacy under Hegemony. In May 2020, he published America Challenges China’s National Talent Programs. His two online classes on COURSERA on Chinese politics and “China and the World” have attracted over 25,000 students. His views on Hong Kong, where he has lived since 1996, can be found in the South China Morning Post, where he is a Contributing Writer.